Dailymotion – the YouTube equivalent, which belongs to telecoms group Orange, has long generated interest from companies far and wide but the French government has fervently protected its national technology jewel, saying it would prefer to see it remain in European hands.
Quick-off-the-mark, Vivendi announced Tuesday it had made an offer to Orange for Dailymotion — one of the 100 most visited websites worldwide — though it gave no details as to the scale or amount of the bid.
The daily Le Monde reported that the French mass media multinational planned to buy up nearly all of the video-sharing platform for €250 million ($270 million).
The offer from a French firm is likely to be more amenable to the government, which caused a furore in 2013 when it blocked a bid by US giant Yahoo! to acquire Dailymotion.
Yahoo! Inc. had been in talks to buy a 75-percent stake in Dailymotion, with an estimated value of $300 million at the time.
But the government, which holds almost 25 percent of Orange, had insisted on a 50-50 split.
Then Industrial Renewal Minister Arnaud Montebourg, a maverick widely viewed as anti-business who has since been forced out of the government, had said he blocked the deal because the US firm was seeking to "devour" the French company.
His move dealt a blow to France's business image at a time when the struggling country was trying to attract investment and kickstart a moribund economy.
'European champion' preferred
Then last week Economy Minister Emmanuel Macron, a former investment banker viewed as pro-business, raised eyebrows when he came out against exclusive talks between Orange and the PCCW conglomerate owned by the son of Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka-shing.
He acknowledged that the PCCW offer "could be a good option", but "I want to be sure that we don't have a European champion that we can build onto this platform," he told French television.
PCCW had planned to turn Dailymotion into a YouTube competitor in Asia, but Macron warned this meant the French video-sharing site would eventually turn into a Chinese platform.
Discouraged by the minister's comments, the Hong Kong firm announced Monday it had ended its bid for Dailymotion.
"The desire of the French government to encourage the search for a European solution discourages participation of international companies," PCCW said in a statement explaining its decision.
The government's reluctance to give up Dailymotion to US or Hong Kong firms has some in France scratching their heads, particularly as it allowed the sale of a near 50-percent stake in the strategic airport of Toulouse to a Chinese consortium in December.
Other companies have also expressed an interest in Dailymotion, according to several media reports, including French holding firm Fimalac and German groups Axel Springer and Bertelsmann.